canning

I am a desultory gardener.
In late January when the holiday madness is over, when the light is low in the sky, when the days are shorter and quieter, I sit with a pile of seed catalogs.  Then, I am a diligent gardener. My garden is beautiful. It is full of myriad vegetables all happily thriving and feeding us. Weeds are just a flickering shadow of an idea.  Everything is well watered, planted in succession, thinned to the proper spacing, mulched. Spring always begins with the best of intentions. Beds are lined with rows of seeds. Weeds are kept in check. With the first salad greens come the flush of satisfaction. We can grow our own food.
But August, well August is a different story. I start to slow down on harvesting by mid-July. The heat of the summer sun is the perfect foil for my laziness.  Things get a little out of hand.  We try and stay on top of the pole beans but inevitably some get missed only to be discovered later, pods bursting.  Zucchini.  Need I say more? Tomatoes, if we are so lucky as to have fruit ripening at this point (which we do this year), are suffering from early blight. They are spindly sticks of stems with pendulous fruit begrudgingly shading red. The garden is looking tired, dusty, overgrown. This is when I discover the bumper crop of cucumbers/zucchini/beans that need to be dealt with.  We have eaten our fill for the moment and need to find another outlet for this plenitude.  So that’s when I haul out the canning books. Pickles. Dilly beans. Zucchini relish. Hello winter stash.
(image above is ‘Radishes,’ oil on canvas, by Judith Logan, on display at Rabelais through November 2, 2010)

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